By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For the first time in two months, the Community Advisory Committee for West Seattle’s only city-sanctioned tiny-house encampment got an update on its operations.
Last month’s meeting had no one in attendance from camp operator LIHI or the city Human Services Department. This time, both were in attendance as the CAC met online on Sunday afternoon. The camp has been on the city-owned Myers Way Parcels on the southeast edge of West Seattle for almost five years.
CAMP OPERATOR REPORT: At March’s meeting (WSB coverage here), the need for a new site coordinator and case manager (both of whom work for LIHI in positions funded by the city contract) was discussed. Sunday, Josh Castle announced that Scott Harris will handle site management as the new special projects manager for Camp Second Chance – “he was our case manager at our Georgetown site” for more than two years. Harris, also present, said the shower facility that’s not working at the camp has parts on order. “We did get a visit last week from the new University of Washington medical van” which will come to the encampment monthly. They’re also getting a lot of food donations, and Operation Sack Lunch is providing meals five days a week. Harris said he worked with DESC before LIHI. He also said C2C’s new case manager has been hired and should be on board in 3 or 4 works; an interim case manager is still visiting a few times a week. LIHI’s Hattie Rhodes, who’s been working at Camp Second Chance in the meantime, said Harris is a good fit for C2C because he worked at a ‘self-managed model” encampment previously. With the personnel transition, there was no update on camp resident numbers – which for many months had been at capacity, around 55 people – housing transitions, or 911 calls, but that should resume at future CAC meetings.
VACCINATION UPDATE: A visiting COVID 19 vaccination team is coming to C2C on May 10th, courtesy of Seattle-King County Public Health; LIHI has been getting two camps vaccinated per week. But they’re encountering “a significant amount of vaccine hesitancy” at camps, for a variety of reasons, Castle said – some are worried “they’re going to feel ill from the vaccine,” also “a lot of misinformation out there that we have to combat all the time,” plus “trust in government.” They’re working on beefing up educational resources as well as making Public Health available for Q&A, and getting trusted people to come have conversations with campers. Rhodes said the vaccine hesitancy is less at C2C than other encampments. Castle said he’s happy to hear that because if at least half get vaccinated, that would be a model for other sites. Campers will get the Moderna vaccine. They hope that after some campers get it on the first visit, others will see that they’re OK, so when there’s a visit for those people’s second dose, some will choose on that occasion to go ahead with their first dose.
CITY UPDATES: HSD’s Shawn Neal had no C2C-specific updates but said two more tiny-house encampments will be opened, one near the U-District, one in North Seattle, and potentially more beyond that. The city has two hotels open for shelter, one filled, the other – Executive Pacific (with LIHI staff including Camp Second Chance’s former site coordinator Eric Pattin) – close to full. Castle mentioned an opportunity to testify to the City Council on Tuesday at 5:30 pm – the Finance and Housing Committee is having a public hearing on allocating money from the federal American Rescue Plan. LIHI is offering talking points for people interested in testifying.
COMMITTEE REPORT: Chair Willow Fulton was the only CAC member in attendance. She lives near the camp (which is at 9701 Myers Way S.) and says all is quiet in the neighborhood. She’s seen some illegal dumping in the area, reported it, and it’s been cleaned up, though there’s a worrisome new pile of dirt, concrete, and rocks near Arrowhead Gardens. Community cleanups are set for weekends in the second half of May, she added.
FAUNTLEROY UCC UPDATE: The church’s partnership with supporting C2C continues. Cathy Phillips is taking over as the church’s liaison and has already been involved with the encampment, including the tiny-house-building operation before that moved offsite. The church remains “actively involved.”
COMMUNITY QUESTIONS: There was discussion at a previous meeting about technology access that would enable campers to participate in meetings – not just ones like this, but also, for example, recovery groups. No change in that situation but the camp does have internet access and welcomes tablet donations. There was also a discussion about health privacy, sparked by the aforementioned impending vaccine visit. Fulton noted that the level of vaccination could affect, for example, whether the camp could resume accepting visitors. Castle said there’s no “magic threshold” for when they’d be able to open back up. Fulton asked about safety issues raised by incidents in recent months. Rhodes countered, “Everyone at Camp Second Chance is safer than they were wherever they were before.” She also noted that Harris is trained in dealing with behavioral-health issues. And she said the camp is probably never going back to a hard line on barring – evicting – people for causing troubles. Harris said LIHI had recently met with the West Precinct (different part of the city) and talked about how to deal with problems without necessarily bringing in a police response. He also revealed he was “one day away from becoming a Community Service Officer” before the budget for that was frozen by the pandemic. LIHI hopes to invite Community Service Officers to the various encampments’ Community Advisory Committee meetings.
ONE MORE NOTE: Besides the added city-authorized encampments, Castle added that a new encampment in Skyway is being prepped too and they welcome volunteers for work. parties. email@example.com. Skyway is in unincorporated King County, the first county-supported camp, and LIHI is lobbying the County Council to fund four more, because of the tiny-house program’s success.
NEXT MEETING: 2 pm June 6th. The CAC is still talking about possibly changing the day/time of the meeting from Sunday afternoons but hasn’t settled on an alternative yet. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in being on the mailing list for future meetings.